Vivian and Bertie
Peals of laughter rang throughout a clearing in the Neovian forest as the town's two most rambunctious children ran through, scaring Meepits and Crokabeks left and right. School had just let out, and Vivian, a purple Lenny girl with long black hair, was feeling disappointed that those snobby Wocky twins hadn't invited her to their party. However, those feelings dissipated when her best (and only) friend Bertie, a red Gnorbu boy with an unruly mane and huge glasses, finished with his latest project, whatever that was, and caught up to her. Bertie could always make Vivian laugh, no matter how depressed she was. He needed her too - she was also his only friend, the only one who didn't pick on him for preferring books and science to Yooyuball and who stood up to bullies for him (although Vivian thought it was high time Bertie learned to defend himself). Though she was a loner, no one bullied Vivian - they didn't dare.
She didn't have money like Bertie's family, but that didn't stop her from dreaming big. Vivian wasn't exactly sure what she wanted from life, but it had to be something important. Something that would make an impact. She was sure Bertie would be a teacher or an inventor or something (he had told her so many times), but she had no idea what her calling would be. But now wasn't the time to worry about that. Now was the time for sneaking up on Meepits and scaring them.
* * *
The two raced into Vivian's house yelling something unintelligible, Bertie clutching something in his hands and not doing as good a job of concealing it as he would've liked. Vivian could see it was a Can of Fake Wadjets before he even presented it to her. He tried (and failed) not to giggle madly, completely giving himself away.
"Do you want -- do you want a nut --" Bertie managed to get out.
Vivian was laughing now too. "I already have one for a best friend, but sure!"
Bertie lifted the lid and the Wadjets sprang out, sending the two of them collapsing to the floor before the Wadjets did. When they finally collected themselves, Bertie pulled another container from his backpack - a Chumablah in a jar.
Vivian squawked in alarm. "Don't let that thing out, they don't like me," she warned.
"Relax, Viv," Bertie assured her as he let the Chumablah out. "They like crackers. If you have crackers, they'll like you."
"I don't have..."
"You do now," Bertie answered, handing her some crackers and stepping back. The Chumablah sniffed around, swiped the air, headed straight for Vivian and bit... the cracker in her hand. The petpet took the cracker in its claws and began nibbling cutely. Vivian reached out tentatively and stroked it with a feather, but jumped a mile when the Chumablah screeched.
"All right, what do you two have down there?" a voice called down the stairs.
"Chumablah," Bertie called up nonchalantly.
"Uch! Outside with it! And don't bring it in here again!" Vivian's mother answered. Bertie scooped the Chumablah back into the jar and he and Vivian raced back outside.
* * *
Later that evening, Bertie went home for dinner and Vivian went outside to see him off. After he left, she saw a Chumablah head into a bush - she could've sworn it was Bertie's. She decided to follow it for some reason, she was more curious about it than scared of it now. Her newfound bravery led her to shrug off the fact that they were now fairly deep into the Haunted Woods. Finally she lost sight of it as it disappeared into a shadow cast by a hut covered with strange runes. Vivian's bravery was dissipating fast, as the trees now blocked out almost all sunlight and she could hear Werhonds growling. Should she rush into the hut and hope it was abandoned? She didn't even have time to decide as the door flew open.
"Can I help you?" the shadowed figure said in a less-than-helpful tone. Her glowing green eyes illuminated her form - she was clearly some sort of Faerie, with tendril-like hair, a deep green cloak and veined, leafy wings. Vivian stood with her beak open, unable to form a response.
"Chumablah!" she finally blurted. Gathering her nerves, she cleared her throat and tried again. "I was following a Chumablah, and it led me here," she answered, realizing how lame her excuse sounded as she was saying it. Surprisingly, the Faerie seemed interested.
"Chumablah? I lost a Chumablah just a day ago." Just then, the petpet in question slinked into view.
"I think it's the one my friend found. We fed it crackers and played with it, and then we let it go. I wanted to make sure it got home okay."
The Chumablah was now nuzzling the strange dark-earth faerie. She picked it up and studied it.
"This is the one. For looking after my petpet, I give you my blessing."
"Blessing? What kind --"
"You may go now." Thus dismissed, Vivian made her way home, more than a little shaken.
* * *
After dinner that night, Vivian went to bed early, her head swimming after the encounter with the Faerie. Her parents didn't find anything odd about the request; "I think you should, you don't look so well," her mother had agreed. All night long, Vivian had short, fitful nightmares about various things, but it was the longest dream that stayed with her the day after.
She was at school. Bart, a bigger, green Gnorbu, was giving Bertie a hard time, just like always. Something Bart said, or did, to Bertie pushed Vivian over the edge, and she found herself rising to her feet. Leave him alone, she thought, glaring at Bart - and then, a flash before her eyes, like the literal version of "seeing red"... only she saw green. Bart was clutching his head and yelling with pain. When it subsided, Bart lunged toward Bertie again, only to double over once more... his hat! It squeezed his head every time he went for Bertie! Vivian looked away, sitting down and feeling nauseous. She couldn't help but feel she caused this somehow. Then Bertie was at her side, but before she could say anything, two pairs of eyes looked down at them.
"What's the matter, Bertie? Need to be protected by your girlfriend?" one of the Wockies said (Vivian could never tell them apart). She barely heard Bertie say, "She is NOT my girlfriend!" when she saw the green again. Nothing happened this time. The Wockies laughed and went away.
* * *
Vivian didn't get a chance to talk to Bertie until after school the next day. It had been a normal day - well, other than the fact that the Wocky girls were absent and the teacher didn't know why, and Bart had been in the nurse's office all day with severe headaches. They went to his house, where he tinkered with... something. Vivian had no idea what the contraption was or what it could possibly do.
"When I'm a teacher, I'll be so much better than Mrs. Swimbladder. My class can chew gum and throw paper airplanes as much as they want. And there'll be no homework either."
Steam suddenly shot out of the sides of the... thing... and there was a small explosion.
"Bert!" his father yelled up.
"Nothing!" Bertie answered, and continued. "But what I really want is to invent in Moltara."
Oh Fyora, not the Moltara spiel. Vivian could practically recite it with him at this point.
"I'll start out working for Tangor, maybe get a patent or ten... At least ten, that's when I should move on to working for the Mayor, by then, everyone will know what a genius I am... my inventions will be sold in all the shops - "
"And then you'll get a real Hoggir and you won't need this one," Vivian interrupted, grabbing his Hoggir plushie off the bed and throwing it at him.
"Right!" said Bertie, pretending not to notice the plushie bouncing off his head. Just then Vivian noticed the wind blowing through the ivy tendrils outside the window, and swallowed hard as she recalled the bizarre Faerie she'd encountered the day before. She'd forgotten, or maybe she'd blocked it out completely. Maybe it was just one of all those nightmares she'd had last night. Maybe... no, what sort of Faerie looked like that? She had to have dreamt it. But then at school... the Wockies disappearing, Bart's hat squeezing his head and no one could remove it... Should she tell Bertie? She had to.
"I did it!" she blurted. "The twins and Bart and the green! It was the faerie!"
"...What? Viv, sit down. Are you okay? Can you understand me? I've read about this, it's called aphasia..."
"No, no, I can explain. But you're never going to believe me."
"Come on, I always believe you." Bertie gave her a pointed look. "Even when you say things like 'that's not a real Mortog, go ahead and kiss it'."
Despite her fear, Vivian couldn't help laughing at the memory. She finally managed to tell him about following the Chumablah and finding the Faerie, and her promise of a blessing. She left out the nightmares and seeing the green and what happened at school, hoping he'd forget what she said earlier or just write it off as babbling. As she knew he would, Bertie gave her his you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me stare.
"You did not see a Faerie. Viv, really? Then what did she look like?"
"Told you you wouldn't believe me. So she was... maybe earth, maybe dark..."
"You don't even know what element your so-called 'faerie' is!"
Vivian was now livid. "She was BOTH, wool breath!"
Bertie sat down on the bed, shocked and angry. He seemed at a loss for words. "...Featherbrain," was the best he could come up with.
"I'm going home," Vivian announced, storming out of the room.
"Fine," Bertie called after her. Only after she had left did he think of adding, "Don't let the door hit you on the way out!"
* * *
On the way home, Vivian felt hurt and confused. Why didn't Bertie believe her? Just because it was something out of the ordinary? How could someone who's always picked on not know what it feels like? What was this stupid blessing, anyway? Was it the green? If that was the blessing, she hated to know what the Faerie's idea of a curse was. Anyway, who did Bertie think he was? What if something happened to him and she didn't believe him? Something bad could happen to him, very bad...
The green. It crept into Vivian's vision and she immediately shut her eyes, fighting it back. No. I don't care how mad I am, I won't let the green attack Bertie. I can't. She kept her eyes shut until the green receded. Horrified at what she had almost done, she raced home, hoping to get there before she burst into tears.
* * *
The next day was a weekend. Vivian had finished breakfast and was trying to forget the past day's events when there was a knock on the door. It was Bertie, and he looked nervous and sad. Vivian felt anxious, hoping the green hadn't taken effect.
"Viv, I need to talk to you. I feel... I feel the way I do when my sandwich is made with really wet baloney, only ten times that, at least."
"What's wrong? Did you want to apologize?"
"For not believing me yesterday."
"Oh yeah. That too. I didn't mean to sound like I was picking on you."
"What else is wrong?"
"I... I have to tell you because it's happening today... I guess I kept hoping at the last second he would change his mind... I have to... to move away to Brightvale."
Vivian buried her face in her wings. This was the worst thing ever, her best and only friend moving away. "Why?" she wondered aloud.
"My dad got a better job there. I don't want to go. I kept telling him that for months, but he didn't care. Now I have to go to school with a bunch of new kids who'll make fun of me."
For months? At least the green didn't do this. "You're going to Brightvale with a bunch of smart kids, like you! You'll make lots of friends!"
"I don't want other friends, I want you," Bertie sulked. "Dad will be too busy to take vacations outside of Brightvale, and you don't have a lot of money to travel..."
"We'll write to each other every single day. I'll send you scones from the Crumpetmonger."
Bertie couldn't help but laugh. "Yeah, stale, moldy old scones. Thanks, Viv."
"Fine, I'll send you the latest issue of Neovian Fashion magazine," Vivian cackled.
"Pfft, what would I want that for?"
"You look at it more than I do!"
"Lies! Lies, lies, lies..."
The two looked at the floor. No matter how they joked around, this was a totally awful situation.
"Will I ever see you again?" Bertie asked, trying to keep his voice from cracking. Just then... the green? But it was completely different from any other time Vivian had experienced it. Instead of fading in and then a harsh flash, it was a soft glow encircling her vision like a halo, and she felt warmth and peace instead of coldness and dread. She was able to answer Bertie's question with certainty.
"GACK! Save me!" Bertie rasped as he pretended to choke while Vivian enfolded him in her goodbye hug.
* * *
Yowls and guffaws echoed throughout the Seekers' library as Katie and Gyro pelted past the rows of bookshelves, making too much of a ruckus for any library. They had the place to themselves, or so they thought... until they almost barreled right into Katie's uncle, seated at one of the tables. They instantly went silent as Professor Lambert turned to glare at them.
"Outside," was all he said, jerking a thumb towards the exit.
Katie and Gyro slowly and quietly made their way out of the library... and immediately started their shenanigans again once they were outdoors. The professor smiled as a Crokabek landed on the open windowsill, bearing the insignia of the Sway on its leg and carrying the latest edition of Neovian Fashion in its talons.